NASA will reveal the deepest image of the universe taken by the James Webb telescope

NASA will reveal the deepest image of the universe taken by the James Webb telescope

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Washington (AFP) – NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced Wednesday that the US space agency would reveal on July 12 the “deepest image of our universe ever taken,” thanks to the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope.

“If you think about it, this is the furthest that humanity has ever seen,” Nelson said during a news conference at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, the operations center for the $10 billion observatory that launched in December of last year and now orbits the Sun 1.5 million kilometers from Earth.

An engineering marvel, the Webb Telescope is able to peer farther into space than any other telescope has ever done, thanks to its huge main mirror and infrared-focusing instruments, allowing it to pass through cosmic gas and dust. .

“It’s going to explore objects in the solar system and the atmospheres of exoplanets orbiting other stars, giving us clues as to whether or not their atmospheres are similar to our own,” Nelson added, speaking by phone from his Covid-19 isolation.

“This may answer some questions that we have: Where did we come from? What else is out there? Who are we? And of course it’s going to answer things that we don’t even know the questions yet.”

The infrared capabilities of the Webb telescope allow us to look further back in time to the Big Bang, which occurred 13.8 billion years ago.

As the universe expands, the light from the first stars shifts from ultraviolet wavelengths in the visible spectrum at which it was emitted to longer ones, corresponding to infrared wavelengths that Webb is poised to detect at unprecedented resolution. .

Currently, the farthest observations of the cosmos are within 330 million years after the Big Bang, but with Webb, astronomers believe that limit can be easily exceeded.

20 years of life

In other good news, NASA Administrator-in-Charge Pam Melroy said that thanks to the efficient launch by NASA partner Arianespace, the Webb telescope can continue to operate for 20 years, doubling the durability range initially considered.

“Those 20 years are not only going to allow us to go deeper into history and time, but we will go deeper into science because we have the opportunity to learn and grow and make new observations,” the director said.

NASA also intends to share the first Webb spectroscopy of a distant planet, or exoplanet, on July 12, NASA Principal Scientist Thomas Zurbuchen said.

Spectroscopy is a tool for analyzing the chemical and molecular structure of distant objects, and a planetary spectrum can help characterize their atmosphere and other properties such as the presence of water and the appearance of their soil.

“Right from the start, we will look to those worlds out there that keep us awake at night when we look at a starry sky,” Zurbuchen added.

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